Washington Irving was the prototype of the pure Romantic traveller, who passed most of his life travelling round Europe, and, attracted by the “exoticism” which the country then offered, naturally landed up in Spain. He was appointed Ambassador of the United States of America here, between 1842 and 1846. Of Scottish origins, Washington Irving undertook a journey beween the cities of Seville and Granada in 1829, identical to the one you could take. Fascinated by the richness of the Arab civilization in Spain, he wrote two books on the subject. The first was the “History of the Conquest of Granada” and three years later, “The Tales of the Alhambra”, where he narrates various legends about Granada, concerning Boabdil, an Arab astrologer and the Torre de las Infantas (The Princesses’ Tower), among others.
A camino real or main road, which acted as a trade link between the kingdoms of Granada and Castile, was established for the first time, following the Treaty of 1244, which enabled the Nasrids to benefit from certain subsistence products in Christian territory, in times of peace. A Route, therefore, of a pure frontier nature.
Irving’s trip has the extraordinary prologue of being a journey suggested as a tribute to the poet-king al-Mutamid, an itinerary which departs from Seville and crosses the province, dotted with towns and villages that had previously belonged to different coras and iqlim, or Arab districts. From the 12th century, food products and livestock, people and ideas, spices, dyes, herbal medicines, grain, fruit, cloth, wool and above all silk, among other crafted products began to arrive in Granada, fiercely protected by a chain of forts.
The wealth and variety of the places along this trip to Granada, offer a great selection of different things that will interest the traveller, such as the cuisine (based on the agricultural wealth of its orchards and fields, developed in the period of al-Andalus), the crafts (rich and varied and the legacy of strong activity by the different guilds in the Middle Ages), shopping, the fiestas (which portray some of the most genuine facets of Andalusian traditions and will fascinate the romantic, for their authenticity and picturesqueness), the enjoyment of the countryside and flamenco song. Loja, Montefrío…, have astonishing cultural wealth and owe much of this to the presence of the Moors.
Sevilla, Alcalá de Guadaíra, Carmona, Marchena, Écija, Osuna, Estepa, La Roda de Andalucía, Fuente de Piedra, Humilladero, Mollina, Antequera, Archidona, Loja, Huétor Tájar, Moraleda de Zafayona, Alhama de Granada, Montefrío, Íllora, Fuentevaqueros, Chauchina, Santa Fe and Granada.
About 350 Km.
The Washington Irving Route stretches from Seville to Granada, between the fluvial valleys of the Guadalquivir and Genil rivers. These in turn are flanked on either side by the mountains forming the Subbético Massif.
This land is made up of cultivated fields and significant natural areas such as La Ratosa lagoon, the Parapanda mountain range, the Chimeneas y de Cabra mountains composed of chalk, or the Salada lagoon, which is a nature reserve.
Mediterranean scrubland vegetation completes the picture, such as the wild olive tree, the cistus and kermes oak trees, and a wide variety of wild animals, for example, hares, mongoose, snakes, blackbirds, warblers, hawks, kestrels, and griffon vultures, among other species.
This region shows a wide range of Spanish-Muslim architecture in its buildings: Mudejar, Baroque and popular architecture. Among the finest examples of Moorish art must be the Giralda and the Alcázar in Seville, the Alhambra of Granada, as well as the numerous castles, fortresses, baths and mosques found between these two cities, as in the case of Alcalá de Guadaíra, Antequera, Loja, Archidona and Alhama de Granada. Magnificent examples also exist of Mudejar and Baroque art with its rich decorative patterns, in the churches with spires that remind us of Moorish minarets, and the temples, palaces, public buildings, etc.
A type of popular architecture emerges which is a blend of Moorish, Mudejar and Baroque styles. It is a simple and noble style of architecture, used for town buildings, farmhouses, and farm estates.
The handcrafts to be found on this Route have a singular value. From Seville to Granada, each of the villages we pass also boasts its group of skilled craftsmen. In Seville, the ceramic pottery of the Triana district, wrought iron, leatherwork, and glassware are of outstanding quality. The crafts derived from Holy Week and other festivities are also very significant, such as bookbinding and making musical instruments. Carpentry workshops, the manufacture and restoration of period furniture, and horse-drawn carriages play an important role in the villages of Carmona, Écija, Marchena and Osuna. In Antequera, there are workshops and studios for stone engraving and woodcarving, ceramic pottery, wrought ironwork and woven material. Finally, the Fajalauza ceramic pottery, inlay marquetry, the work of goldsmiths and jewellers, artistic metal forging, copper work, embossed leather, and stringed instrument making are all particularly special in Granada, an important handcrafts centre.
The festive calendar of Seville, Granada, and Málaga starts in the months of January and February with Candlemas and Carnival. The change to spring is singled out with the impressive Holy Week processions in towns and cities everywhere, from Seville to Écija and from Antequera to Granada. In May the pilgrimages to the country or romerías begin and the May crosses. June marks the beginning of summer and brings with it the festivity of San Juan. During this season, a number of livestock fairs, regional fairs, and musical festivals are held, from July until late September.
This route gives the visitor the opportunity to try a mouth-watering cuisine created using a variety of the best basic produce.
As befitting the Mediterranean influence on this area, cereal crops, vines, and olive trees provided the staple ingredients of the local diet. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the bread, wine, and olives surpass themselves all along the route. Each village has its own special variety of bread, as in the case of Alcalá de Guadaíra and Antequera. The table olives and extra virgin olive oil add their flavour to the excellent dishes. To round off the meals, the visitor can sample various good quality wines, such as crianza or aged in oak barrels from Aljarafe, the wines of Málaga with denomination of origin or the “vinos del terreno” from Alhama de Granada. These go well together with the cultivated fruit and vegetables from the fertile lands, meat products, and game.
The traditional and new style of cuisine merges, above all, in the big cities. The traditional cuisine offers dishes such as stews; potajes, pucheros, guisos de legumbres, and cold soups, gazpachos, porras, salmorejos, cold cured meat products, and pork, beef, lamb, suckling kid and game.
Sweet pastries have always played an important part in the cuisine of Seville, Granada, and Málaga, and each village on the route has its own speciality: piononos from Santa Fe, polvorones from Estepa and tortas from Écija. The homemade sweet pastries made by the nuns in the cloistered convents are particularly special.